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Hiking & Homestays in the Remote Northeast
Embark on a special adventure journey within Vietnam's mountainous northeast region. Discover an inspiring landscape of limestone peaks, scattered remote valleys, waterfalls, and nature reserves. Along the way, you'll encounter little-known tribes, including an immersive stay with the Black Lolo, a fascinating Tibeto-Burmese people whose way of life has remained unchanged for centuries.
Welcome to Vietnam!
Upon arrival at Noibai airport, you'll be welcomed by your local guide and transferred to the hotel. Check-in and relax.
If time allows (depending on your arrival time), embark on an afternoon orientation walk, following the traces of ancient Hanoi’s 2,000-year history. Hanoi’s vibrant Old Quarter is a captivating array of narrow streets, where merchants once traded goods according to which street they were situated. You'll pass by various hang which means 'goods' or 'shop' in Vietnamese, absorbing the ambiance of the bustling streets.
You'll start from Phan Dinh Phung, one of the most beautiful streets in Hanoi and a haunt of many poets and writers. On the way, stop at Dong Xuan Market to stroll through the narrow, crowded lane. In Lan Ong, meet a traditional medicine expert at his local shop to learn more about his work preserving his ancestors' profession. Visit 11th century Bach Ma Temple or White Horse Temple, Hanoi’s oldest place of worship, and walk along Hanoi’s railway where locals reside alongside the rumbling tracks. En-route, stop at Zo Project, which preserves Vietnamese traditional paper and the technique to produce it in a sustainable and creative way, and then you'll reach Mr. Truong’s Hanoian traditional house. There, share an open talk with this personality full of knowledge about his story and his heritage while drinking a local tea. Pass also by St Joseph’s Cathedral and Hanoi’s Sword Lake (Hoan Kiem Lake) as far as Ly Thai Tho Statue. Optionally, cross over to the splendid Metropole Hotel, and share a refined cocktail at the cozy bar.
Although the old section of Hanoi is often called the “Thirty-Six Old Streets,” there are more than thirty-six actual streets. Some researchers believe that the number thirty-six came from the 15th century when there might have been thirty-six guild locations, which were workshop areas, not streets. When streets were later developed, the guild names were applied to the streets. Others attribute the thirty-six to a more abstract concept. The number nine in Asia represents the concept of “plenty.” Nine times the four directions make thirty-six, which simply means “many.” There are now more than seventy streets in the area.
Later, consider taking in the amazing view of Vietnam’s Red River, the fruitful artery of North Vietnam, and the city lights by night from the ancient Long Bien Bridge.
Overnight in Hanoi.
After breakfast at the hotel, begin the morning with a visit to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, a great place to learn about the life of Ho Chi Minh and gain a deeper insight into the extensive history of Vietnam. Walk around the exquisite grounds of the old Indochinese governor’s palace (now a presidential palace), and visit the unique One Pillar Pagoda and the stilt house of Ho Chi Minh.
Next, take a short drive to the Temple of Literature. Built in the 11th century, the temple is dedicated to the worship of Confucius and the Scholars, and is seen as a symbol of not only Hanoi but also Vietnamese culture.
In the afternoon, drive to Vietnam’s Museum of Ethnology, an impressive museum celebrating the multiculturalism of Vietnam. Learn about the fascinating lifestyles and cultures of Vietnam’s 54 ethnic minority groups through detailed descriptions and exhibits, a great primer to your time in the north!
Later in the afternoon, if time allows, make a stop to visit Hanoi’s Tran Quoc Pagoda, the most ancient pagoda in the city. This Buddhist center possesses spectacularly striking architectural features in the peaceful ambiance of its lakeside setting.
Overnight in Hanoi.
Hanoi - Ha Thanh
This morning, you'll head out from the Red River Delta towards low mountain region, where the flat landscapes of the delta region give way to a panorama of massive hills striped with river valleys.
The Viet, or Kinh, who now represent 90% of the population, had very small numbers only in the lowland / high mountain regions 150 years ago. Indeed, they did not venture far beyond the edge of the delta and the Red River Valley for fear of inhospitable forests, ferocious animals, and for unknown diseases beyond in the wilds. This region was home to other groups as well: Tay people in the low valleys, Dao in the lower mountains, Hmong & Loloon towards the higher elevations, and Nung on the border (primarily on the east side).
At nearly the halfway point, just before Tuyen Quang town, the road follows the valley of the Lô River to the city of Ha Giang, which is located 180 km upstream. Beyond Viet Quang, this valley is neighbored by the Chay River mountain range's western foothills, home to the highest summit in Northeast Vietnam, Tay Con Linh (2419m).
You'll arrive in Ha Thanh by mid-afternoon, a splendid hidden hamlet inhabited by the Tay ethnic group, only 10 km away from Ha Giang City. Here, you'll meet the owner of a traditional Tay wooden stilt house with a palm leaf roof. After settling in and if time permits, visit the surrounding hamlets on foot. The valley landscape is studded with vegetable gardens, small ponds and small houses surrounded by rice fields, with impressive karst peaks background. Depending on the season, you can swim in the nearby waterfalls.
Overnight in a Tay stilt house. This homestay offers private bedroom with mattresses, mosquito net, shared bathroom with hot water.
Drive time: 7 hours / Distance: ± 300 km
Ha Thanh - Seo Lung
In the morning, depart Tay Con Linh Valley – land of the Tay -for the Quan Ba Valley further north, which is mostly inhabited by the Red Dao people. Take a quick visit to Ha Giang Market before continuing the drive up the highlands from Quyet Tien.
From Quyet Tien, embark on a hike, beginning by a small concrete road then on to the trails along the mountain sides and the valley on the western part of Phu Ta Ca Massif. Enjoy the untouched beauty of the landscape with rice fields, forests, and several villages inhabited by the Red Dao and Black Hmong. Picnic lunch is served along the way.
End your hike by traversing a small stream before reaching the village of Nam Dam, comprised of dozens of houses made of rammed earth on the hill. The inhabitants, Dao ethnic people, sill wear their traditional black dress with red stripes.
From here, you'll be picked up by vehicle and transferred on to the Hmong village of Seo Lung. Seo Lung is a White Hmong village of sixty households on the northern flanks of the Three Fairies Mountains, known as Phu Ta Ca, the second highest point in the province of Ha Giang. Its protective inaccessibility makes it one of the most insular communities in the country. Standing at 1200m above sea level, Seo Lung overlooks the Song Mien Gorge. To the south, Seo Lung is dominated by the high wooded ridges and the rocky faces of the Fairy Mountain. In the northern and eastern part of the valley lies the ravine of Ca River and the southern foothills of Vang Pao, a majestic limestone formation creating the south boundary of Dong Van Geopark.
Upon arrival, meet your host Mr. So, chief of the village of Seo Lung, in his traditional Hmong house. Settle in at Mr. So's house and learn about the White Hmong's traditions. Dinner is served at the homestay.
Overnight in Seo Lung. This homestay offers shared bedroom with mattresses, blankets and mosquito nets. Shared bathroom with local toilet and shower without hot water.
Drive time: ± 3 hours / Distance: ± 75 km
Hike: 1090 m ascent. 1110 m descent. 17 km. ± 6 hours
Seo Lung - Meo Vac
In the morning, accompanied by one of Mr. So’s sons, start hiking through the lush forest of The Three Fairies Mountains. You'll follow a path crossing corn and bamboo plantations, offering a unique panorama over the Dong Van plateau and Phu Ta Ca Mount, reaching the majestic eastern valley of Phu Ta Ca. Continue the walk through an area where Hmông families work on a daily basis (according to the seasons). You'll have the chance to see the ovens used to dry cardamom, then walk further into the dense forest along a jungle path amidst the steep peaks of Phu Ta Ca. Arriving at Mr. So’s cardamom plantation, you'll be taught about local cardamom harvesting, which the Hmông of Seo Lung specialize in, making trips into the jungle to cultivate and harvest the precious spice. Once dried, it is most often sold at traditional Chinese medicine markets. The Three Fairies Range is covered with a primal carboniferous mountain forest, where moss, lichens, and arborescent ferns grow in the shadow of ancient twisted trees. The undergrowth is humid, dank, and often covered by fog – the perfect environment for cardamom and the great good fortune of the Hmong.
Cross to the other side and begin a steep descent towards a stream squirming in the hollow of the Phu Ta Ca foothills. Pass by a waterfall before reaching the trail that leads to the central valley and to Seo Lung.
You'll be picked up by vehicle and drive to Meo Vac, arriving there in the late afternoon. Upon arrival in Meo Vac, which boasts a French and Chinese old quarter area, settle into a local lodge and relax.
Overnight in Meo Vac.
Drive time: ± 3hours / Distance: ± 80 km
Hike: 450 m ascent. 650 m descent. 11 km. ± 4 hours
Meo Vac - Khuoi Khon
In the morning, if schedule allows and you're there on a Sunday, visit Meo Vac ethnic market.
Next, hike across Pa Vi, a breathtaking karst mountain. The hike follows the north massif, on a superb trail overlooking the Nho Que Gorge, the Tu San Canyon and the Chinese border among foggy peaks. There's the chance for some phenomenal photos in this enigmatic place.
At around noon you'll arrive in Si Cu Ti, a White Hmong village where about 100 families have maintained an autocratic existence. The village hides in a small valley encircled by karst peaks. Picnic lunch served at the village.
In the afternoon, you'll be picked up in vehicles and drive for two hours to Bao Lac District, home to nearly a thousand Black Lo Lo people. From To Du passage, one of the summits in the Geopark, the road meanders through and then out of the high mountains. The rocky plateau inhabited by the Hmong transforms into a landscape of rice fields, inhabited by Dao, Giay and Nung.
About a dozen kilometers after Bao Lac junction you'll drive on a dirt trail heading towards Khuoi Khon, a Black Lo Lo village. Visit the village and get to know local traditions and customs. If time permits, you can take a short hike to a pass overlooking to the scenic village and capture the sunset over the mountain ridges.
A rare and cherished experience for any traveler wishing to learn about real life in northern Vietnam is to spend time with the Lolo people of Cao Bang Province. Originating in southern China, the Lolo are a Tibeto-Burmese people from the Yi group. After being displaced from China by the government in the 18th century, many of the Lolo clans chose to immigrate south to Vietnam. Today, Vietnam’s group numbers about 1,800 around the massif overlooking Bao Lac, in the northwest part of Cao Bang Province.
Enjoy dinner at your Lolo homestay house. Overnight in a Lolo homestay. This homestay offers shared bedroom with mattress, mosquito net. Shared bathroom with shower and hot water.
Drive time: 3 hours 30 min / Distance: ± 90 km
Hike: 400m ascent. 300m descent. 9 km. ± 4 hours
In the morning, you can participate in the daily chores: lighting the fire, collecting water, and gathering wood. After breakfast, join a Lolo villager on a trek deep into the mountains to meet Lolo shepherds and discover some unexplored Hmong hamlets. After crossing beautiful rice paddies and cornfields, take in splendid views of the region’s vast wild massifs. Along the way, learn about the local flora from an expert in the field of traditional medicine and wildcrafting.
Depending on the season, after an invigorating walk back to the village, spend the afternoon helping the Lolo villagers with agrarian activities. Finally, learn about traditional handicrafts by engaging in weaving, spinning, and textile dying techniques with local artisans.
Overnight in a Lolo homestay. The homestay offers shared bedroom with mattress. Mosquito net. Shared bathroom with hot water.
Khuoi Khon - Ba Be
In the morning, head to Ba Be, a region of karst peaks and various ethnic groups. Board a boat along Ba Be Lake to Coc Toc, a Tay hamlet nestled at the foot of a wooded mountain on the lake's southern arm. Be welcomed by a Tay family and settle into their house.
Later in the afternoon, get an introduction to local fishing techniques with your local host and assist the family with dinner preparation.
Located in the middle of a national park covered by jungle, Ba Be Lake is the biggest natural lake in Vietnam, covering a surface of 5000 square meters (it fluctuates during the rainy season). The scene is amazing: deep, blue waters surrounded by limestone peaks covered by jungle.
Overnight in a Tay stilt house. This homestay offers private-bedroom, mosquito net, shared bathroom with hot water.
Drive time: 5 hours / Distance: ± 150 km
In the morning, start your hike towards the northwest part of the highest massif overlooking Ba Be Lake. The route passes through various plantations (corn, cassava, sweet potato) and across some Hmông and Dao villages which are nestled in midst of a thick jungle scattered with giant ferns and lianas that twist like the thousand arms of a Hindu god. On the way, take in the view on Na Hang Lake to the west along the provincial boundary of Bac Kan – Tuyen Quang. Picnic lunch served in a Dao house.
In the afternoon, hike on and descend toward the river-weir of the Ba Be lake which plunges in rapids around Na Hang. Sail up the river in a local boat across a rugged landscape of limestone peaks covered with green jungle. Return to Coc Toc village in the mid-afternoon, where you're free to wander around the village and meet the local villagers.
Overnight in a Tay stilt house homestay. The homestay offers private bedroom, mosquito net. Shared bathroom with hot water.
Hike: 400 m ascent. 400 m descent. 16 km. ± 5-6 hours
Ba Be - Hanoi
In the morning, you'll be driven back to Hanoi. En-route, depending on market schedule, an additional stop can be made at one of the local markets in Nam Cuong, Quan Khe or Khang Ninh.
Early in the afternoon, arrive in Hanoi and settle into the hotel. The rest of the day is free at leisure to explore.
Overnight in Hanoi.
Drive time: 5 hours / Distance: ± 240 km
Free at leisure until departure.
$1,955 based on double occupancy
11D / 10N
Hanoi - Ha Thanh - Seo Lung - Meo Vac - Khuoi Khon - Ba Be - Hanoi
Customizable, Village Experience, Trekking
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